govt. at breaking point
WHILE negotiations between the
government and LTTE to set up a joint mechanism for the post
tsunami reconstruction in the north east was delicately poised
last week, the....
Amendment that turned into a battle against the CJ
govt. at breaking point
Wickremesinghe, Chandrika Kumaratunga, Mahinda Rajapakse,
Jayantha Dhanapala, Ratnasiri Wickramanayake and
WHILE negotiations between the
government and LTTE to set up a joint mechanism for the
post tsunami reconstruction in the north east was
delicately poised last week, the Tigers sent a warning
signal on the vulnerability of the ceasefire agreement
itself even as the JVP threatened to rock the ship of
state yet again.
And then came a bolt from the
blue in the form of CWC Leader Armugam Thondaman who in
a state of pique informed the government on Thursday,
February 24 the CWC would be sitting with the opposition
from Friday due to differences of opinion with the UPFA
administration. To stress his seriousness, Thondaman
also got Muthu Sivalingam and S. Sellasamy to resign
from their portfolios.
Confusion worst confounded was
thus the order of the day in government with mixed signals
going out to the LTTE and the JVP as well
on issues such as the joint mechanism and the peace
process, which as a result were threatening the very survival
of the government. At the same time the SLFP grassroots
membership added a new dimension to the crisis in government
by agitating for the nomination of a presidential candidate
from the party. (See Potshots)
If ever there was a recipe for
disaster in government, Kumaratunga had it in plentiful and
given the resultant confusion, the ship of state was drifting
aimlessly in the high seas even as the storm clouds gathered
The government desperately in
need of donor funding for the tsunami reconstruction effort
has been struggling to reach an agreement for the
establishment of a joint mechanism with the LTTE, without
which the expected funds would not be forthcoming but was also
mindful of the political ramifications given the JVP's
vehement opposition and it was in trying to balance these
contending forces the President came a cropper.
The JVP has also made it clear
any joint mechanism with the LTTE would see the party's exit
Originally, following the
government sending a proposal to the LTTE
for the establishment of a joint mechanism to handle
the post tsunami reconstruction, the Tigers made a counter
proposal during talks held between the two peace secretariats
at Norwegian Ambassador, Hans Brattskar's residence down
The LTTE, as exclusively
reported in this column, proposed the setting up of a three
member apex body comprising one member each from the Tamil,
Muslim and Sinhala communities whilst at regional level there
was to be a 11 member committee of which six were to be Tamils
and three and two Muslims and Sinhalese respectively. The
Muslim nominees were to be decided by the representatives of
the Muslim community.
The government however was not
agreeable to this formula and suggested balanced
representation at the regional level so that the LTTE would
not have an outright majority. The government position was
that there should be five Tamils, three Muslims and two
Sinhalese in the regional body with the government having the
right to nominate the Muslim representatives.
At the same time, the
government wanted the decisions taken at the apex body to be
by a majority vote whereas the LTTE insisted on a consensus.
Finally, after further
negotiations, it was agreed that decisions of the apex body
will be by consensus but if no consensus was possible, it
would go to a vote.
And at the regional level too,
the LTTE agreed to the five, three and two arrangement where
once again the approach was to be one of consensus and issues
put to a vote only if no consensus was possible.
Given the importance of the
Muslim factor in the east, not to mention the Sinhalese, it
was further agreed that in instances where a proposal by a
minority in the region which nevertheless was a majority in a
given area was made, rejection of it would require a two third
majority at the regional and apex levels.
An example would be Kalmunai
where the Muslims are a majority although they are a minority
in the district and region. In such an instance, a proposal
made by the Muslim representatives for reconstruction of
Kalmunai can only be rejected by two third of the committee
members in the regional and apex bodies voting against it.
All well and good, but the
negotiations have now stalled on the thorny issues of the
north east merger and the nomination of Muslim members.
On these two issues, the
government, given the JVP opposition, is insisting the
mechanism should operate separately in the north and in the
east without having one mechanism for the north east whilst
also insisting on nominating the Muslim representatives to the
apex and regional bodies.
The LTTE on the other hand has
indicated the north east must have one joint mechanism and the
Muslim nominees be made by the representatives of the Muslims
as opposed to the government.
The LTTE has also said it is
not prepared to compromise any further on the issue.
This would also mean the JVP,
JHU and the UNP too wanting a say in the nomination of the
Sinhala representative thereby hopelessly outnumbering the
That the LTTE will not
compromise on a unified mechanism for the north east was also
made known to Norwegian Special Envoy, Erik Solheim when he
met LTTE Political Wing Leader, S.P. Tamilselvan on Tuesday,
It is at this very meeting
Tamilselvan also indicated the LTTE was not prepared to wait
indefinitely for the establishment of a mechanism and warned
of the ceasefire agreement itself being in jeopardy.
Tamilselvan told Solheim, the
Sri Lankan military had formed new para military groups to
wage a covert war against the LTTE and unless it is stopped
forthwith, the ceasefire agreement would collapse.
He told Solheim the ceasefire
agreement was at a critical stage and the murder of Political
Wing Leader for Ampari-Batticaloa, Kausalyan was the climax of
ceasefire violations by the security forces.
He went on to say the LTTE was
committed to the ceasefire agreement and will continue to
exercise maximum restraint but added the government was
attempting to break their will to be committed to the
"Our patience is being
tested," Tamilselvan said, upping the stakes,
notwithstanding which the government refused to budge on
having separate mechanisms for the north and east.
Hardly had Solheim returned
from this not too promising meeting in the Wanni and briefed
the government, another flank was opened, this time after
Secretary General, Peace Secretariat, Jayantha Dhanapala at a
National Peace Council function reiterated the government's
commitment to resume talks with the LTTE for the establishment
of an interim authority in the north east to meet the
humanitarian and development needs of the people.
The government hoped that by
making this announcement the LTTE will soften its stance
further on the joint mechanism, little realising it was about
to open a can of worms.
This announcement drew a sharp
response from the JVP with Propaganda Secretary, Wimal
Weerawansa threatening to withdraw from the government if
there was any move in that direction.
The JVP in fact was highly
agitated by Dhanapala's comments made Tuesday, February 22,
particularly in view of it being presented as "government
position." The JVP within 24 hours informed both Foreign
Minister, Lakshman Kadirgamar and Media Minister, Mangala
Samaraweera that as a senior partner of the government, the
JVP has not endorsed any such proposal and would oppose it
tooth and nail.
And on Thursday, February 24,
Weerawansa made the JVP's intentions clear by announcing in
parliament the party would withdraw from the government if the
proposal is gone through with. The JVP position was reiterated
at a hastily summoned press conference the same afternoon by
Weerawansa, Nandana Gunatilleke and Tilvin Silva.
It was on the morning of
Wednesday, February 23, that Wimal Weerawansa first got wind
of Dhanapala's statement and promptly a call was placed to
Media Minister, Mangala Samaraweera to verify the veracity of
Weerawansa told Samaraweera
that Dhanapala had made a statement to the effect the
government was agreeable to resume talks with the LTTE for the
establishment of an interim authority and wanted to know if it
Samaraweera's initial reaction
was that it could be a media spin but promised to verify the
details and revert.
However, as the day
progressed, the situation took a turn for the worse with
senior JVPers being inundated with telephone calls querying
whether the party had agreed to the resumption of talks for
the establishment of an interim authority.
Soon the JVP realised, the
statement was attributed to the government which was merely
read out by Dhanapala and the party decided drastic action
needed to be taken and Weerawansa once again made contact with
And after impressing upon
Samaraweera the seriousness of the situation, the duo together
went and met with Foreign Minister, Lakshman Kadirgamar hoping
some clarification can be made.
But given the bad blood
between Kadirgamar and Dhanapala, the former did not want to
take the issue head on, stating he knew nothing about the
Perplexed, Weerawansa told the
two SLFP ministers, there could be serious consequences for
the alliance if a clarification was not made distancing
Dhanapala's statement from the government.
But more trouble was in store
after the government Information Department later that
afternoon issued a statement to mark the third anniversary of
the ceasefire agreement wherein, the Dhanapala statement was
reiterated as the government position.
The irony was that the LTTE
never raised the ISGA issue with Solheim during the talks,
instead focusing on the joint mechanism and the ceasefire
agreement and in that context, the government going out on a
limb to negotiate an interim authority had all concerned,
including the Norwegians, perplexed.
Be that as it may, no sooner
Weerawansa got wind of this development from a journalist
attached to a Sinhala newspaper, he requested a copy be faxed
to him and on receipt of it, blew a fuse.
Forcing the JVP out
immediately Weerawansa asked what game the government was
playing and whether it was the President's intention to force
the JVP out of government.
Lashed out Weerawansa -
"The Media Ministry functions under you. How can these
media releases be issued without you even knowing it?"
Unable to explain the
development, Samaraweera said he knew nothing of it and that
it was probably done on the instructions of the President
through the secretary to the Ministry.
It is following this
development, the JVP summoned a meeting of party seniors and
decided it can no longer remain silent on the issue.
The consensus at the meeting
was that while statements made by President Chandrika
Kumaratunga can be disregarded as views of an individual, it
cannot be so ignored when attributed to the government of
which the JVP was a major player.
Accordingly, the party
instructed Weerawansa to make a statement in parliament
challenging the statement made on the interim authority
followed by a press conference.
Interestingly, Weerawansa came
in for some stick at the JVP meeting after it was pointed out
he had failed to keep the SLFP on track despite a policy of
appeasement. He was told to therefore make a strong statement
to dispel doubts in the minds of the party cadres that he was
a puppet of Samaraweera.
Subsequently, the President
gave the JVP an appointment to meet her on Monday, February
28, but once again cancelled the meeting the following day,
Friday, angered by the public stance the Marxists took on the
And even as the JVP was
dropping their bombshell, the government was to receive
another body blow, this time from the CWC.
The CWC joined the government
on the publicly stated position of working for the betterment
of the estate workers but soon found little headway being made
in government due to utter confusion with not so much as an
appointment possible with the President.
Neither was there delivery on
several promises made at the time of the long jump, a bitter
experience Thondaman came to share with the Muslim Congress
renegades who also made the jump.
And the bolt from the blue
came Thursday, February 24, when Estate Infrastructure
Development Minister, Muthu Sivalingam called over at Prime
Minister Mahinda Rajapakse's office in parliament seeking a
Ever ready to oblige,
Rajapakse asked Sivalingam what he could do for him and the
response, to say the least, shocked the Premier.
"We have decided to quit
the government. I have with me the letters of resignation of
Mr. Sellasamy and myself. I came to hand it over to you,"
Asked Rajapakse "Why?
What's the problem?"
Replied Sivalingam -
"There was a ceremony in Talawakelle yesterday and we
were supposed to inaugurate it. We informed the police also
that nobody else will be attending it. But Chandrasekeran had
come and inaugurated it. Even the police supported him. When
our members opposed what was happening, the police arrested
them. If we are humiliated in this manner and are not given
any dignity as members of the government, we can no longer
Taken aback, Rajapakse who was
sidelined when the CWC was brought into the government, said
he should address his grievances to the President and inform
her of the party's decision to quit the coalition.
Said Rajapakse - "I am
not the one who gave you ministries. It was the President. So
you should tell her you are resigning."
It will be recalled, when
Thondaman joined the government, in a letter to the President
he said the CWC was extending its support because of the faith
they have in Kumaratunga and Mangala Samaraweera, a slight not
lost on Rajapakse at the time.
Oblivious to that letter,
Sivalingam complained he could not so much as obtain an
appointment from the President leave alone have the problems
of the CWC sorted out but Rajapakse was not impressed.
The Prime Minister told the
CWC Minister though it was easy to approach him, they should
not place all their problems at his door but should take them
to the President.
"I have no powers to deal
with such problems," Rajapakse said, upon which
Sivalingam leaving the resignation letters on the Premier's
table got up to leave.
However, after a moment's
pause, the Prime Minister asked him to sit a while and dialled
Law and Order Minister, Ratnasiri Wickramanayake. Said
Rajapakse to Wickramanayake, "Thondaman and his people
have a problem with the police. Can you please speak to Muthu
and sort it out?"
On being given the phone,
Sivalingam explained the Talawakelle incident to
Wickramanayake and said the CWC will be forced to quit the
government if the issue was not resolved immediately by
withdrawing the police complaint and releasing their members
who were in custody.
Free to quit
But Sivalingam was in for a
rude surprise when Wickramanayake told him the law must take
its course and they were free to quit the government if they
so wished. Having said that the Law and Order Minister cut the
Shocked, Sivalingam handed
over the phone to the Premier stating Wickramanayake asked
them to quit the government if the CWC so desired.
Not long after arrived CWC
Leader, Armugam Thondaman who too was breathing fire and
threatening to quit the government.
And no sooner Thondaman
arrived, the Premier summoned IGP Chandra Fernando for a
meeting to discuss the issue whilst also placing a call to
IGP Fernando for his part made
a few telephone calls and informed the Premier a report would
be sent later that evening on the Talawakelle incident after
which he said a decision can be taken on how to proceed.
While this meeting was going
on the President called on Rajapakse's line and he promptly
handed over the telephone to Thondaman and asked him to
explain matters, which he proceeded to do.
If Thondaman thought the
President would jump at this threat, he was sadly mistaken,
and though an appointment was sought to explain matters,
Kumaratunga said she was too busy to meet him that day.
Kumaratunga explained she was
to meet Erik Solheim that evening and was busy the following
day as well but would give him an appointment within the
following three days.
By this time Thondaman had
already met Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe and
indicated his decision to sit in the opposition benches from
Friday, February 25.
Thus, having spoken to the
President, Thondaman told the Premier, there was no reason any
longer for them to stay in government and left, leaving the
resignation letters of the two ministers on Rajapakse's table.
What the Premier did not know,
but of which the President had an intelligence report was the
long meeting Thondaman had on Monday, February 21 with
Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe where the current
political developments were discussed.
A strong believer in
astrology, the predictions for March were also of concern to
Thondman and he did not hide that fact in discussions with his
But the Opposition Leader made
it clear to his party members Friday, whatever problems the
President faced in government, he was not ready to fish in
troubled waters and take over government at this juncture.
Jokingly, he told Colombo
District MP, G.L. Peiris, "It seems only the UNP is keen
on ensuring the JVP does not quit the government and bring it
In fact when Norwegian Special
Envoy, Erik Solheim met Wickremesinghe, the Opposition Leader
asked whether they had any idea why the government issued a
statement on the interim authority at this point of time.
"Did the LTTE demand such
a statement of goodwill?" Wickremesi-nghe asked and
received a response in the negative.
Solheim told Wickremesinghe
the subject did not even come up in their discussions and that
they had no idea what it was all about.
At this point, Wickremesinghe
showed Solheim a copy of the Information Department press
release reiterating the government's decision to commence
talks with the LTTE for the establishment of an interim
authority and the Norwegians could only shake their heads in
Thus it is clear, the
government is drifting aimlessly with no clear strategy in
place and it is a matter of time before all hell breaks loose.
Amendment that turned into a battle against the CJ
G. L. Peiris, Dr. Rajitha Senaratne, Rauf Hakeem and John
By Dilrukshi Handunnetti
Our Lobby Correspondent
As Lord Mansfield had
observed, justice should not only be done, it should
manifestly be seen to be done. But that would be a utopian
dream for a society that has evidenced the abysmal failure in
the administration of justice which in effect has caused
public confidence to deteriorate in the institutions meting
It is in this backdrop the
18th Amendment to the 1978 Constitution was taken up for
debate - an attempt to increase the number of appeal court
judges from 11 to 21 and mechanisms to clear laws delays and
urgently clear the backlog.
But cannons boomed early.
Thursday morning was heated with JVP Spokesman Wimal
Weerawansa in a special statement accusing the government of
taking unilateral decisions with regard to the peace process.
Lambasting the govt.
A furious Weerawansa lambasted
the government for a statement issued by the Information
Department on the third anniversary of the ceasefire agreement
which declared the intention to set up an interim authority to
address the urgent humanitarian needs of the people of the
north and east.
To a shocked House, Weerawansa
announced that if talks were resumed on the ISGA proposal, the
JVP would unhesitatingly withdraw from the government. Not
stopping at that, he alleged that the will of a single party
could not prevail in a coalition and that constituent parties
were not being consulted on the matter.
While thunderstruck government
benches could only sit with gaping mouths, JHU Group Leader,
Ven. Athuraliye Rathana Thero also insisted on the
announcement of the government's stance on the resumption of
His fiery delivery had a
terrifying impact on the day's debate which was on the
establishment of provincial high courts and strengthening the
appellate courts in general.
The debate thus became a more
scholastic exercise except on passion.
With the government busier
sorting out their survival concerns, highlighting the point
that people were fast losing faith in the judiciary was Dr.
Rajitha Senaratne who in layman's terms explained the maladies
affecting the judiciary and in doing so, he did not even spare
the Chief Justice.
In a wide ranging speech that
tantamounted to a scathing attack on the Chief Justice, Dr.
Senaratne declared that Justice Vigneswaran not only retired
prematurely but expressed his disgust over the politicisation
of the judiciary when doing so.
The respected judge had stated
that impartial judges were excluded when constituting benches
and by the composition of benches, litigants were able to
predict the determination, an issue Prof. G. L. Peiris earlier
in his scholarly precentation also touched upon.
Holding sway, he claimed that
the denial of justice leads to the moral degradation of a
society and creates criminals. Identifying what ails the Sri
Lankan judiciary, he noted that the pinnacle itself was
"It is a reported fact
the Chief Justice had links to the underworld with criminals
calling him on the mobile phone. It was also reported that he
tried to manipulate the Wellawaya Magistrate to release a
police officer that was famous for treasure hunting and was
assaulted by furious villagers once. Subsequently he was
caught in a compromising position with a young lady lawyer
with three policemen on duty confirming the identity of the
'fountain of justice.' The inquiry has mysteriously been swept
under the carpet," he alleged.
Dr. Senaratne thundered that a
young girl holding hands with a man on the beach amounted to
misbehaviour according to law, but the man who heads the
judiciary could go well beyond the norms of decency with the
authorities maintaining silence.
Adroitly moving to an
emotional subject, the former Lands Minister said that
political motives were behind the imprisoning of S. B.
Dissanayake and wanted to know why he should serve a two year
jail term for having spoken his mind when Ravaya Editor,
Victor Ivan who published a book on the failure of justice
here was not even sued for defamation.
"That would have been
like opening a can of worms. That is why there is no action
against him. It is self preservation than anything else,"
sniped Dr. Senaratne while government members listened without
a hum of protest.
Making a pertinent point, the
Kalutara MP noted that during this regime, an accused has been
killed inside court premises, a High Court Judge was gunned
down at his home and a court house was bombed killing two
"That's your track
record. Stoning the judiciary will not reduce the esteem of
the institution itself. People had a healthy respect for
justice and those who administer justice. The great
institution has begun to fail the people in the recent past
and some judges have failed the judiciary, the people and
justice itself," he observed.
Moving on to the recent Bar
Association polls, Dr. Senaratne called it a victory of legal
practitioners who want the great institutions of justice to be
preserved and not sullied by politically motivated lackeys of
the powers that be. His speech aimed at the ordinary citizen
and devoid of legal jargon was collectively appreciated by
opposition benches, with former Justice Minister Prof. G. L.
Peiris who intently listened to the speech, giving Dr.
Senaratne an affectionate pat on the shoulder.
Following him was SLMC Leader
Rauf Hakeem who thought it was amusing not to find a single
government member opposing Dr. Senaratne.
"There is no reaction to
that hard hitting speech. The deafening silence of the
government benches itself is an indictment of the
judiciary," claimed Hakeem.
His grief was more personal.
Calling himself an absolutely aggrieved party, he proposed
that some of the original jurisdictions enjoyed by the Supreme
Court be transferred to the Appeal Courts to facilitate
"Four of my party members
crossed over and when they were expelled by the party, the
court held that the party denied them natural justice. I am an
aggrieved party. How do we appeal against such determinations
and seek reversals. One of the members who crossed over
publicly announced that I was also joining them and my rights
were also impinged," noted Hakeem.
Strangely, it is at this point
that Justice Minister John Seneviratne stood up to request the
expunging of Dr. Rajitha Senaratne's lengthy speech, to which
Hakeem scoffed that the government was waking up from its
slumber only now. "They were silent all the while he made
the speech for that was nothing but the truth," noted
Hakeem, rubbing salt.
Rushing into the chamber to
defend his speech, Dr. Senaratne claimed that he had made
similar speeches before in parliament which were not expunged
and further noted that it was not his personal opinion but
that of the vast majority of Sri Lankans.
"I am an elected MP. I
attributed all the allegations made to various newspaper
reports. These reports have not been denied. The journalists
have not been brought to task. How is it that my freedom of
expression is less valued? I quote newspapers and the speech
gets expunged because this is the bitter truth. Where is
natural justice where my speech is concerned?" demanded
Minister Seneviratne however
insisted that parliament was guided by Standing Orders and
whether previous speeches went unopposed or not was not the
issue. His argument was that a judge's conduct according to
Section 78 of the Standing Orders could be discussed only by
way of a substantive motion. However, the chair refrained from
giving an immediate ruling and Hakeem resumed his speech.
He requested that the right of
a litigant to invoke reversionary appellate jurisdiction was
also important at which point Minister Seneviratne said that
Hakeem's proposals were irrelevant at the time of discussing
the 18th Amendment.
Strangely, there were no
raucous defenders of the judiciary or the Chief Justice
Group Leader, Tamil National
Alliance (TNA), R. Sampanthan and MP Nadaraja Raviraj both
advocated a system of speedy justice and brought out the issue
of detainees who are made to suffer in jail for years.
While Sampanthan made general
observations about the need for strengthening democratic
institutions and particularly the judiciary, Raviraj requested
that career judges be given preference now that the number of
appeal court judges is to be increased.
"It is their sweat and
toil that has strengthened the democratic foundations of this
country. The parachuting judges should be kept at bay in the
best interests of justice," noted Raviraj.
But the UNP members in
contrast were more single minded in their approach to the
debate. Except for a few like Prof. G. L. Peiris who dealt
with the legal aspects of the proposed amendment to the
constitution, most indulged in gleeful CJ bashing and sought
to highlight many instances of justice being denied.
Earlier during the day, the
debate dragged on, on a dull note with no fire-breathing
orators giving vent to their feelings. However, the debate was
eclipsed by the angry outburst of
Wimal Weerawansa, leaving the House to wonder about the
future of the rainbow coalition than strengthening the 1978
Constitution through the proposed amendments.
Presenting the bill, Minister
John Seneviratne observed that the backlog of cases
had increased to nearly 20,000 by the end of 1993 and
in 2003, the number of civil appeals pending before the Court
of Appeal was some 9,399.
Quite rightly, the Minister
observed that laws delays have contributed to the erosion of
public confidence in the administration of justice, and noted
that the healthy respect people had for justice needs to be
restored through confidence building measures such as
promoting speedy justice.
"It is known that justice
delayed is often justice denied. This is an aspect we should
address and is also one fundamental reason behind the
legislation presented today," noted Seneviratne.
Lauding his effort, Prof. G.
L. Peiris said that the UNP unreservedly supported the
government on this score. He also said that the creation of
five circuits islandwide was salutary, but urged that the
appointing authority should be the chairman of the Appeal
Courts as the legislation directly had a bearing on the Appeal
"It deals with appellate
jurisdiction and the Supreme Court has nothing to do with
this," noted Prof. Peiris, also promoting the appointment
of acting judges where the exigencies of the judiciary so
"It is one of the
greatest traditions we have so far maintained," noted the
former law professor who said that it was sad to note a sharp
decline in public confidence when it came to the
administration of justice.
Referring to Justice
Vigneswaran's comments on the judiciary as an institution that
has failed the people, he noted that it was sad to hear a
senior judge stating that one could predict a determination
when the composition of the bench is known.
"If society does not feel
a sense of security, then the legal system has failed. These
institutions are created for their welfare and betterment and
if the institutions and the people who form part of these
great institutions cannot give our people the necessary sense
of security, then there is something radically wrong with the
system," he observed.
With the debate set for a
postponement in order to accommodate more amendments, it was
Minister D. M. Jayaratne who proposed that archaic laws that
no longer served public purposes should be done away with,
whether tradition called for their preservation or not.
Referring to the S. B.
Dissanayake case, he noted that the judiciary should have the
discretion to deal with issues of defamation and contempt of
court. His argument was that members were splitting hairs
about a single case which could also amount to interference
with the judiciary which earned a resounding no from the
All in all, a debate that was
expected to be heated and argumentative was conducted on
Thursday in subdued fashion following the great fall out of
the JVP with the government, with attention being shifted to
inter party battles from the real issues of a nation that
seems to be staring at tragedies, natural disasters and
There is obviously no love
lost between President Chandrika Kumaratunga and the Janatha
Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP). Opinion is divided within the red
camp about going solo and sticking on. Most reds by now
consider it an indignity to stay on while there are those who
prefer to stay on and fight, like Spokesman and Parliamentary
Group Leader Wimal Weerawansa.
But that was until last
Wednesday night when the JVP politburo decided to lodge their
strongest protest that had Weerawansa making a special
statement in the House on Thursday morn, threatening to pull
out of the coalition.
To cap it all, there was the
Ceylon Workers' Congress (CWC) pulling out of the government
as well. Kumaratunga's choices may be few but undaunted, she
is now considering the dissolution of parliament, largely to
teach the reds a lesson. Her belief is that they would suffer
a humiliating defeat if unsupported by the PA.
But the decision is now making
both camps unhappy with members muttering in the lobby that
whatever her political reasoning may be, another poll would
spell disaster - and would be more like a second tsunami.
The 13th parliament is one
that works at cross-purposes. Naturally, the third anniversary
of the ceasefire agreement was celebrated in different styles
with no two parties celebrating it the same way.
On the one hand, there was the
JVP threatening to pull out of the government. On the other,
the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) members were protesting
outside the premises demanding the recommencement of peace
negotiations - all on the same day, February 24.
On top of that, the CWC too
announced its decision to pull out of the government. All in
all, it is a parliament that cannot meet eye to eye, be it
peace or otherwise.
for more disasters
Even before the select
committee on disaster preparedness, set up only a fortnight
ago to prepare this nation for natural disasters could get on
its feet, a committee member has tendered his resignation. The
member is UNP's Hambantota District Leader, Sajith Premadasa
who is replaced by Matara District Leader Mahinda Wijesekera.
But Premadasa's resignation
has triggered off much talk among the green members who fear
that with the select committee already showing signs of being
a big talk shop with officials and politicians bitterly
opposing each other at every turn, more resignations would
Preparedness Select Committee, Mahinda Samarasinghe was a
worried man last week. He was upset over a news item carried
in a state newspaper alleging that he was to join the
government as media minister.
Vehemently opposing the
mischievous news report, Samarasinghe got caught to cheeky
Deputy minister Mahidananda Aluthgamage who offered an
explanation - that the said news item could have been the
handy work of arch rival Dr. Rajitha Senaratne.
The Chief Opposition Whip who
was on his feet, enjoying the task of outlining his many
successes and denying a need to crossover, fell for
Aluthgamage's line. In a flash, Samarasinghe was seen agreeing
with Aluthgamage, much to the glee of the government benches
who enjoyed the task of putting one Kalutara member against
man under fire
JVP Parliamentary Group Leader
Wimal Weerawansa is currently a man under fire. Having made a
belligerent special statement in parliament threatening to
pull out of the coalition if peace talks are resumed based on
the ISGA, the man failed to send sufficient photocopies of his
prepared speech to the press gallery where media personnel
anxiously waited for the text to arrive.
A few copies came and when a
scribe phoned to find out what was causing the delay,
Weerawansa in his usual pompous style announced that
considering the weight of the contents - so important were
they - that his speech was not that easily photocopied.
So much for over estimating
one's value, even when marching orders have been issued.
President Kumaratunga's threat
to dissolve parliament has galvanised the government types
into action. Worried sick with the CWC's change of heart and
the JVP's belligerence, the search is on once more, to dangle
some carrots before a few green members with sufficient
skeletons in the cupboard and lure them into the government
The reasoning behind Operation
113, the second time over is that following the judgement
given in favour of UNP dissident Rohitha Bogollagama, all
those who crossover would be safe and their seats would be